Furthermore, the staffer says, there has not been until now much political incentive or evident public appetite for pursuing these issues. There was an attitude, he says, when Democrats took control of Congress, of “Let’s not be seen as the party that wants to prosecute. And a lot of this stuff has been accepted by the general public.”

In the meantime, the press is finding new ways to fight back, regaining some of its assertiveness that had gone missing in the years following 9/11. Lucy Dalglish, from The Reporters Committee for the Freedom of the Press, notes, for instance, that some news organizations have added provisions to their contracts with telecom service providers demanding that they not give the government any of the organization’s records without first informing the company, or unless under subpoena.

It’s a start. 

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Laura Rozen reports from Washington, D.C. for Foreign Policy magazine.